How the Importance of the Flack-Hack Relationship Has Shifted – Or Not?

By Rebecca Renfroe

How the Importance of the Flack Hack Relationship Has Shifted – Or Not? image MCC Blog PreferredMethodGraph

Through the years, the relationship between PR pros and the media has had some significant changes. Gone are the days of the “three martini lunch” to sell a story idea. Today, journalists and PR people are working off a newly established set of ethics. Both have a common goal of sharing interesting content – which can sometimes lead to tension. Generally, there is a push and pull between the two entities that ideally results in the placement of well-developed content. Although there have been many ups and downs over time, there’s one thing that continues to hold true – the relationship between PR professionals and journalists is a crucial component to success and remains important.

The Numbers

With ongoing staff cuts and complete eliminations of newspapers around the country, there are by far fewer journalists employed by traditional media companies when compared to five, 10 and even 15 years ago. With staff cuts, the ratio of PR professionals to journalists has significantly changed. To put things into perspective, fewer journalists mean that there are fewer opportunities to share story ideas. The competition to get articles placed continues to be fierce, growing as more newspapers fold.

On the other hand, reduced staffs can be beneficial for PR people. Journalists are crunched for time and are more likely to use PR-suggested copy or story ideas to fill content for the 24-hour news cycle. Even though this is true, PR pros must still establish a good relationship with the media. When a better relationship is built, the chances of an email ending up in the Trash or Spam box go down significantly.

The Lines of Communication

Traditionally, the best way to contact someone, including reporters, used to be picking up the phone and making a call. Today, most interactions between PR people and the media occur through email. Even though PR pros can share pitches via Twitter they should think twice. According to the Vocus State of the Media Report 2014, “the majority of journalists still don’t care to be pitched by social media and an overwhelming 90.7 percent of respondents chose email as their preferred method of contact.”

Alternatively, social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook have become a way for PR people to learn about journalists’ interests, read stories that they share and generally gain a better understanding for the real personality behind writers’ public personas. More intelligent pitching that involves researching an audience or writer before pushing “send” typically makes for happier parties all around. With this new understanding and knowledge, it has become easier to identify the best contacts for stories and begin direct, less formal conversation with them before the pitch.

Journalists are also using social media to post breaking news, search for story ideas and sources, and use platforms as a way to share the stories that they’ve written. More recently, journalists have been evaluated on how well their articles perform online, as well as the amount of inbound traffic and shares they receive. The more people that spend time reading their articles, translates into more eyes that would potentially see an advertisement on the same page.

It may seem simple, but PR people can help journalists by pitching interesting story ideas that bring in more site traffic. Social sharing of a journalist’s articles – even if they aren’t about your client – after they’ve been published also drives additional traffic back to the site and gives them Klout. At the end of the day, with the constant pressure to produce content that translates into ad dollars, PR pros should be doing everything they can to help out their journalist friends.

We Need Each Other

Although there can be tension, in a perfect world, the media and PR forces will learn to play together nicely. PR pros should act as a client’s storyteller and the media are the vehicle for the story. There are always more complexities to every relationship, both good and bad, but the relationship between the media and PR pros remains an important one that is mutually beneficial.

Previously published on The M/C/C Minute at www.mccom.com/blog. Tweet us — @mccPR!

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